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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

A master’s encounter with a genius

Taras Shevchenko National Museum has opened exhibition of works by Oleksandr Saienko (1899-1985)
5 June, 2014 - 11:21
Photo from Nina Saienko’s family archive

He was original and unique artist, People’s Artist of Ukraine, whose work is recognized by the UNESCO. At the exhibition’s opening ceremony, the presentation of the book Oleksandr Saienko’s Shevchenkiana was held, celebrating the work which is a worthy commemoration of the Bard of Ukraine, authored by experienced and well-renowned researcher of Saienko’s artistic heritage, author of over 200 publications (books, albums, catalogs, articles in journals, magazines and newspapers) devoted to the analysis of contemporary artistic life, Honored Art Worker of Ukraine Nina Saienko.

Saienko’s extraordinary contribution to the development of Ukrainian visual arts amply deserves a solo exhibition at the iconic museum of the national genius and prophet Taras Shevchenko in the year of the latter’s 200th birth anniversary as well as publication of the lavishly illustrated album Oleksandr Saienko’s Shevchenkiana which the foremost researcher of the artist’s legacy, his daughter Nina Saienko produced with infinite love and scholarly thoroughness.

Her book is very aesthetic in its design and interesting in its content, revealing the splendor of the spirit of two powerful figures – Shevchenko and Saienko. It presents for the first time the unique materials, namely the works by Saienko dedicated to Shevchenko’s stays with friends in Borzna raion (where Saienko was born and raised), including such outstanding personalities as Viktor Zabila, Panteleimon Kulish, Viktor Bilozersky, and Hanna Barvinok. In addition, the album contains two watercolors from the Saienko family collection, probably painted by Shevchenko himself.

The exhibition of works by Saienko, who was a world-renowned artist and admired boundlessly the great Ukrainian poet from his childhood years, includes his watercolors, temperas, gouaches, mosaics, straw panels, representing his multifaceted art reflecting the Ukrainian national life and life and work of his idol Shevchenko. It is even more crucial that the exhibition gives us a deep understanding of national identity, which was formed in the early 20th century by such prominent figures in the field of artistic culture as Mykhailo Zhuk, Mykhailo Boichuk, Oleksandr Murashko, Vasyl Krychevsky, Heorhii Narbut, as well as Saienko.

Numerous works by Saienko show their extraordinary novelty and freshness, but it is unique national character of Saienko’s outlook, the nature of perception, attitude toward his native land that impresses most acutely. All his works are, without exception, inspired by the spirit of the Ukrainian nation.

The exhibits include also rare examples of folk art and antiquities from the Saienko family collection that complement the basic understanding of the everyday life and architecture of that period.

Saienko’s national idea has been the motto of the prominent artist’s daughter’s creative career as well. Her talent is like seed that fell on good soil and bloomed with flowers which, of course, bear the imprint of the works of his father. She was his favorite student and inherited his spiritual treasure, as reflected in the book, which was first presented at the Taras Shevchenko National Museum in Kyiv.

My understanding is that Nina Saienko felt it very important to release this book just before the 200th birth anniversary of Shevchenko which coincided with her own anniversary, even if coming after little more than a third of time that has gone since Shevchenko’s birth.

Let us congratulate her on the release of this beautiful book, very much needed for modern Ukrainian culture, and her anniversary. She is still surprisingly energetic and creative. It is surely neither her last book, nor the last exhibition, nor the last anniversary. May God help her in her many endeavors, art events, art projects, which will take decades to unfold!

By Zoia CHEHUSOVA, Honored Art Worker of Ukraine